This was certainly the case for Eat Green Design (EGD), a sustainable temporary exhibition, restaurant and theatrette, which hosted dinners, guest speakers and the latest ‘green’ products, at the Powerhouse Museum in August as part of Sydney Design 09.
The EGD concept, which aims to provide a platform for dialogue on issues relating to design and the environment, is the creation of Cilla Madden, director of Collaborate. ‘Collaboration is the primary focus on such a project and it is a core element of the way in which Collaborate, as producers of the event, conducts business,’ says Madden.
The Powerhouse Museum co-presented the project with Collaborate and was also EGD’s temporary Sydney home for its duration.
Fundamental to the ethos of the project is working with the local design community. Sydney Design Program Manager, Jane Latief, says the Museum was able to facilitate this process by providing contacts and coordinating the production of various aspects of the project.
Latief engaged a cross-section of designers who came on board to create furniture from recycled or recyclable materials, as well as redesign other items for extended use. ‘Working in a collaborative way provides opportunities to exchange ideas and knowledge and develop creative solutions in the realisation of projects,’ says Latief.
Collaborators, including Hannah Tribe from Tribe Architects who designed the structure and Oliver Smith who produced the cutlery, were asked to focus on sustainable principles to produce their part of the project. The ultimate outcome was to see all parts of the exhibition be used for another life, post-show, with a built-in capability to be recycled if not sold. A key principle for Tribe’s structure was that it had to be re-used after the event. In this case, it will be going into another restaurant in Sydney due to be opened at the end of the year. The materials – plywood, lighting and paints – were also sustainable.
Tableware was produced by a selection of Sydney designers, using discarded Maxwell + Williams seconds. Designers had the opportunity to re-fire and redesign the pieces and turn them into more desirable objects that were all sold off post-show at the Young Blood designers market. ‘These designers came from varied backgrounds and most had never worked with this medium before,’ says Madden.
Arthur Koutoulas produced all 40 chairs for EGG using recycled cardboard and environmentally friendly sponge foam from Joyce Eco Foam. For Koutoulas, meeting the budget (as each chair would need to cost about $60 each to produce) meant collaboration was essential and this was the case right through the production process to the finished product. ‘So it was collaborative in the way of negotiating with the cardboard supplier and the foam supplier to utilise existing capabilities and manufacturing processes,’ he says. The outcome was a chair made using only folds with no fixing points thereby using fewer materials. Like the crockery, all of the 40 chair cushions were also sold off after the event.
The project proved that Sydney designers are willing to work together and want to become more sustainability-focused given the right project to focus on. However, this focus also proved a challenge for many of the designers involved in the project. For example, Oliver Smith was used to working with very high-end materials and when asked to source secondhand cutlery to redesign, he was amazed at how much was discarded. ‘He says he will now rethink all his processes when considering new designs in the future, and the impact this will have on the planet,’ says Madden.
According to Smith, it all comes back to collaboration. ‘It is imperative that all individuals connected to the Australian Design field foster a collaborative approach,’ he says. ‘It really is a case of nobody wins unless everybody wins.’
Smith goes on to say that this also applies to the sustainability challenge and that EGD raised these issues in a timely manner but did so through celebration and joy. ‘It is essential to inspire the best solution,’ he proclaims.
Many of the EGD designers have had great recognition of their works and have secured future commissions for their designs. Smith is considering expanding the concept he developed for the project into a commercial product range. ‘There has been a lot of great work done in terms of reworking existing objects and finding new uses for existing materials, but the potential to reinvigorate things through new finishes in metal seems to have rich potential,’ he says.
Immediately after dismantling EGD, the Powerhouse Museum moved to acquire a number of products that were included in the display, which Latief says ‘is a great outcome for the designers, the project and the Museum.’ Having now completed the project with local designers in Melbourne in 2008 and now Sydney 2009, the plan is to take EGD state by state.